Travel changes you. And in no way do I mean to draw upon the tortured clichés of first-time backpackers, who experience an “epiphany” that sets them upon an lifetime journey to fulfill some primal desire to explore. Beyond those initial giddy moments of stepping off a plane in a foreign land, there’s that one moment when everything changes—that instant when you see the world in a different light for the first time, bearing its teeth, scars and all.
Mere decades ago only the most adventurous souls would dare enter Eastern Europe. Civil wars, corruption, political upheaval—it’s no wonder travelers steered clear. Now Eastern Europe’s all the rage. Walk the streets of Prague or Budapest in summer and you’ll barely find breathing room; Eastern Europe is open for tourism and the whole world knows it.